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Downing Street parties: Met Police launch investigation into alleged breach of lockdown rules – live updates | Politics

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Hello. There have now been reports of so many parties or gatherings at No 10 during lockdown that it’s hard to keep track (my colleague Aubrey Allegretti has a list here), but different events are causing outrage for different reasons. Some were outrageous because they were clearly parties in their own right, by any definition, that couldn’t be remotely described as work events. Two were inflammatory as they took place the day before Prince Philip’s funeral, when officials were expected to act with particular decorum. The garden party on May 20, 2020 was also a shock, as it took place despite the organizer being told it was a mistake, and Boris Johnson showed up and now claims not to have realized that it was against the rules.

In some ways, the latest revelation is less serious. Whether this is a good part is in dispute. But because it was a birthday event, it has huge resonance for all of us who have forgone proper birthday parties during lockdown because we were willing to follow the rules outlined so often by Johnson himself.

Here is our overnight story, from my colleagues Jessica Elgot and Aubrey Allegretti.

By chance or on purpose, Grant Shapp, the transport secretary, was doing the broadcast rounds for the government this morning. Shapps is one of the government’s best broadcasters, and if anyone can paint a relatively positive picture of a PR monstrosity, it’s him. But today he didn’t really try.

Yes, he argued that the event was not technically a party. He stressed that it was important to wait for Sue Gray’s report in partygate. He praised Johnson’s record on Covid and the rollout of the vaccine, and he argued that events like the Russian threat to Ukraine were more important.

But, in his interviews, Shapps did not try to defend the birthday party/gathering and he did not dispute claims that it was against the rules. “I don’t want to present a defense because I would be adding speculation to speculation,” he told the Today show. Justin Webb. And then Shaps noted:

What’s in dispute is how many people were there, how long, whether people were socially distant. But I’m not trying to defend it. I’m just saying with a little patience we can get the facts [from the Sue Gray report].

When told the anniversary event shouldn’t have happened, Shapps said:

I think it’s clearly unwise to do these things, and the Prime Minister has said that before, in reference [to the party in the No 10 garden on 20 May 2020] that he should have sent people inside.

Webb so put that on him Adam Wagnera lawyer expert in lockdown rules, says celebrating the birthday in the cabinet room was clearly against the rules.

Adam Wagner

If the facts are correct, I don’t see how it could have been legal

June 19, 2020 – indoor gatherings of 2 or more have been banned unless they fall under a list of exceptions. Birthday parties (or any other social gathering) were no exception

January 24, 2022

Shaps did not dispute this. He said the event was “reckless, I’m sure, given the circumstances as we know them”.

And Webb tell him that he knew, deep in his heart, that it was not defensible. Again, Shaps didn’t try very hard to disagree.

The Prime Minister has already been categorical. He said he accepts everything that happened under his watch, takes ultimate responsibility and mistakes are made, a better way to put it.

Other ministers giving interviews on partygate in recent weeks have struggled, but it’s hard to remember anyone raising the white flag so easily. If the person set up to defend No 10 doesn’t even try to defend him, the Prime Minister could be in even more trouble than he thought.

Here is the program for the day.

9:30 a.m.: Boris Johnson chairs the cabinet.

10 a.m.: Dame Cressida Dick, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, is questioned by the London Assembly’s Policing and Crime Committee.

10 a.m.: Lord Evans, Chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, gives evidence to the House of Commons Standards Committee on the Code of Conduct for MPs.

11:30 a.m.: Downing Street holds a lobby briefing.

11:30 a.m.: Liz Truss, the Foreign Secretary, answers questions in the Commons.

2 p.m.: Nicola Sturgeon, Scottish First Minister, makes a Covid statement to MSPs.

2:30 p.m.: Ben Wallace, the defense secretary, testifies in defense of the Commons Committee on Afghanistan.

2:45 p.m.: Ian Hislop, editor of Private Eye, and his colleagues testify before the House of Commons Standards Committee on the Code of Conduct for MPs. At 3.30pm MPs Jess Phillips and Sir Desmond Swayne will give evidence.

4 p.m.: Sajid Javid, the health secretary, gives evidence to the Commons health committee.

I’ll cover some UK Covid developments here, but for more in-depth coronavirus coverage read our global live blog.

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Downing Street parties: Met Police launch investigation into alleged breach of lockdown rules – live updates | Politics

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